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the day after the most powerful earthquake ever to rock japan. we're getting a better idea of the size and scope of the disaster. it is massive and heartbreaking. japan's prime minister putting the call out for help and the united states responding. we'll tell you how. and this morning, a dangerous new threat, an explosion, and a leak from one of the damaged nuclear power plants. the world is watching, it's waiting, it's ready to help. >> from cnn center in atlanta, it's march 12th, i'm randi kaye. >> and i'm andrew stephens in hong kong. we'd like to welcome viewers in the united states and around the world to our special coverage of the disaster in japan. it is now 10:00 at night in japan. most rescue operations have stopped, but the concern over more aftershocks even more tsunamis remains. there have been more than 180
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aftershocks since the 8.9 earthquake and massive tsunami struck northeastern japan's coast. at least 900 people are dead, 600 more are missing, an undetermined number injured. early rescue efforts were difficult because of the aftershocks. plus there have been tsunami warnings sounded more than twice in the northeastern japan area. highways in that part of japan are damaged and utility services such as water and electricity are out for hundreds of thousands of people. the quake triggered a tsunami more than 23 feet high that washed over the japanese coastline traveling six miles inland. this is the largest quake in recorded history to hit japan and the seventh largest worldwide since recordkeeping first began. cnn has correspondents in japan and more headed there. in four minutes, we'll take you live to sendai, a city of about 1 million, about 80 miles from the quake's epicenter. >> every time i see the pictures of that tsunami roaring
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rerentlererent le relentlessly, it's chilling. a nuclear energy plant damaged by the quake. the explosion happened at the plant which collapsed the roof over one of the nuclear reactors. cnn's stan grant is in tokyo. we know the area around the plant has been evacuated, has actually calmed the fears of a nuclear leak or added to it? >> reporter: well, this evacuation zone has been increasing throughout the day which has raised concerns about just how great the threat is. and is that threat increasing? first it was a bit over a mile, 3 kilometers, 10 kilometers, it's been doubled to 20 kilometers. that's been increasing along with the threat, along with the attempts and the foiled attempts so far to be able to bring any impact on these reactors that are overheating. they haven't been able to get the coolant in there to try to
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cool this down. of course, that was affected after power supply was knocked out by the earthquake yesterday. it really reached a peak this nuclear emergency with the explosion this afternoon. four people were injured, we're still awaiting news about just how seriously. but we understand now according to the nuclear safety energy agency that this was a hydrogen explosion, it was not an explosion related to the reactor itself. they say that no harmful materials released into the atmosphere. no increase in radio activity since that explosion. naoto kan has also said that no one yet has been affected by radio activity. but also saying that some radioactive material was released into the atmosphere that happened earlier today. it was recorded eight times higher than the normal level
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just outside the perimeter of the plant. but again, they're saying it is not enough to cause any problems to the people in the vicinity. but as i say, having increased that threat and now you have this 20 kilometer 12 to 13-mile exclusion zone. andrew? >> the good news, obviously that was a hydrogen explosion and not related to the reactor, stan. to the best of your knowledge and the people you've been talking to, what do we know about what is actually going on with those reactors then? because we hear sort of different reports that the government seems to be down playing it a little bit. and many experts we've been talking to saying this is a race against time, this is an incredibly serious issue right now. >> reporter: yeah. certainly serious issue. you're getting into uncharted territory here. you have, of course, the impact of the quake, but now this nuclear emergency, as well. and it is an emergency, declared an emergency by the government. not taking it lightly.
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but at the same time, they don't want to see people panic here, as well. and they are saying that the radio active levels, or radioactivity that seeped out into the atmosphere have been at levels not causing harm. but here's the problem. what happens here is the water level drops and the reactors are exposed. and those reactors generate enormous heat. that's how you power the electricity. the steam the electricity comes from. they -- overheat. they can't get enough water in there to cool, that puts more pressure and more prospect of these -- these fuel casings, rods melting down and creating more radio active material, which could head into the atmosphere. that's what they're trying to do. get more water in there trying to cool these reactors down more than 24 hours later, they've been unable to do that, andrew. >> stan, thank you so much. stan grant live with an update on the developing story, the breaking news story from those reactors in the fukushima province.
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randi? robert alvarez is a senior scholar and researches nuclear armament and environmental policies. and he says there's only about a 24-hour window in which to cool the reactor before the core and fuel elements are actually exposed. he gives us a glimpse into what might have happened inside that nuclear plant at the time of the explosion. >> the temperatures start to build and then in a matter of several hours you can start to have the reactor experience a meltdown and other things could happen with these very high temperatures that could be as high as 5,000 degrees fahrenheit. for example, the zirconium that contains the fuel at those temperatures can spontaneously combust, catch fire.
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the water could generate hydrogen, and you might have fire and explosions. another nuclear plant not far from the reactor that exploded alerted authorities that the cooling systems in three of the four reactors have failed. now, at least 45 countries have now pledged rescue teams, supplies, and financial aid. japan has accepted offers of search and rescue teams. so far from australia, new zealand, south korea, and the united states. the u.s. has also sent navy ships to japan to help out with the relief. it's also helping with what president obama calls "lift capacity." heavy lifting equipment. the u.s. also sent supplies to help cool those nuclear reactors there. poland is offering to send firefighters. president medvedev of russia says his country has offered rescuers and sniffer dogs and "all possible aid." thailand is offering about $165,000 in aid. it says it will consider
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offering more when the extent of the damage is known. and the international red cross say they've mobilized 11 teams to the heavily damaged areas. they have tents and relief supplies ready to pass on to local red cross teams. and the u.s. is sending military ships loaded with supplies and search and rescue teams to help japan, as well. let's get more on the u.s. response. elise, as i understand it, japan is leading the efforts and setting the priorities. is that what you're being told, as well? >> that's right, randi. the japanese government has a lot of experience with this, the japanese military very capable and has a lot of resources. really what the united states is doing is mobilizing all of the resources, higher seventh fleet, seven or eight warships on the way, sending search and rescue teams. really going to take their cues from the japanese as to what they need. this isn't a case like haiti where there was no functioning government. this is a government very
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capable and they want to be in the lead on this. >> and what about the u.s. citizens? anything being done there to help american citizens who might be looking to get out? >> well, right now the focus is on finding and makiing sure thee are no americans hurt or any fatalities, then what the u.s. is going to do. consular teams on the scene trying to help americans. once that is all sorted out, the initial search and rescue and recovery operation, then the united states is going to start to help americans get out. but we haven't heard anything about that yet. >> all right. elise, thank you very much. and to find out how to make a difference in japan, visit our impact your world web page at eyewitness accounts of the most devastating natural disaster in japan's history. cnn i-reporters recorded incredible video of the earthquake and the tsunami as they battered the nation. we'll share more of those with you.
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we have an earthquake right now. and this is actually moving. you see the cracks moving? the crack is just moving. there's water, i don't know if water lines are broken, but this water was not there a minute ago. >> communities, towns, neighborhoods literally splitting apart. that is such an amazing image. >> unreal. >> we have been getting some really unforgettable images out of japan's disaster zone. some of the most haunting have been from the very first moments of the catastrophe, like that one. and listen to the terror and disbelief of this cnn i-reporter as he realizes this is no ordinary earthquake. >> oh, my god! that is the biggest earthquake to date.
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it is still going. oh, my god, the building's going to fall! >> you can hear the terror in his voice. >> unbelievable. >> yeah, the video is from ryan mcdonald, shot from his home in fukushima, about 140 miles north of tokyo. he says after the quake there were aftershocks almost every 30 minutes. last we heard, he was heading for an evacuation center. but reynolds, i have to ask you, if you have aftershocks every 30 minutes, is there ever a time you know, yes, it's safe to go back inside? >> i would say absolutely not. what's so insane about it is every time you have an earthquake that strong, it's going to weaken the structural foundation of these buildings. then when you have a tremor or aftershock, it can further weaken it. and with the collapse, entrapment inside these structures. when you think about tropical systems or tornadoes, you can tell when they're coming, you can see the storms rolling to
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you. but there isn't any real warning when it comes to these kind of -- the thing about an earthquake. look at the images. the tsunamis happen near coastal regions, but earthquakes can happen anywhere on the planet and strike at any moment. >> all right. let's listen. take a pause and listen to some of the sound of this next i-report. you can hear it gets louder and louder, the crescendo as the earthquake actually ramps up. you can see how difficult it is for him even to hold his camera. that's harrison peyton. he said he was asleep in his house when he felt the ground shaking and didn't know what to do, he stood in his driveway. smart or not so smart? >> absolutely. as long as he's away from power lines or away from anything that could fall. >> better to get out of the house? >> absolutely. after this thing occurs, it
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would be safe to be possibly in a tent, something -- if it were to fall, it wouldn't be a weapon. but inside any building, i wouldn't feel secure. >> good tips for the next time something like this happens. hopefully it'll be a long time from now. >> you bet. >> let's hand it over to andrew. >> thanks, randi. we want to take a step back now and give you background on japan and its economy. the cia world fact book said japan's overall economic growth averaged 5% in the 1970s and 4% in the 1980s. growth slowed, though, in the 1990s after the great property bubble burst of 1989. growth in the '90s averaging just 1.7%. now, tokyo has warned that its gdp, the total value of all the economic output, that gdp growth will slow this year. and that is even more evident with this powerful earthquake. japan is heavy live dependeheav
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dependent on raw materials imported. now, it is also the world's third biggest economy behind the u.s. and most recently china. that just changed in the last few months or so. it's also among the world's largest and most technologically advanced producers of cars, electronics equipment. per capita income comes in at $34,200. compare that with the u.s., the u.s. per capita income, $47,000 u.s. now japan has a parliamentary government with a constitutional monarchy. its capital is tokyo. there are 47 prefectures, government divisions similar to the u.s. states. the head of government is the prime minister naoto kan in office since june. they seem to be fairly short-reigning in japan these
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checking top stories. new video just coming into the
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newsroom. a horrible accident in the bronx is section of new york. a tour bus overturns, 13 people are dead according to the city's fire department, another six passengers we're told are in critical condition. we'll bring you more details as we get them here in the "cnn newsroom." it appears forces loyal to libyan leader moammar gadhafi are getting the upper hand as they try tamping down a nationwide rebellion that has royaled the nation for weeks now. that renewed aerial bombardments in ras lanuf are disheartening the opposition. in yemen, weeks of protest have again erupted into violence. government troops opened fire on an anti-government protest in the capital. a medic tells cnn, one person is dead and dozens of people are injured. cnn cannot confirm these claims with the government. and in sports, we're on the brink of a potential nfl lockout after talks between owners and the players union ended yesterday without reaching a new labor agreement.
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contemplating another natural disaster. images pouring in from japan early reminiscent of new orleans in 2005.
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what's the big news in priority mail flat rate boxes and envelopes from the postal service? over a billion used.
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now, katrina was a hurricane, not a tsunami.
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but it's impossible to look at these images and not get flashbacks of new orleans more than five years ago. back then, general russell helped guide the city through crisis. since his retirement, he has continued his mission to spread awareness on handling major disasters. he joins us live from baton rouge. general, good morning to you. as you look at these images, we're all looking at the devastation caused by that tsunami. do you see the similarities in the aftermath of katrina? >> certainly in the aftermath in the amount of water that remains ashore and the amount of damages that have been done to so many homes and businesses and the destruction of the infrastructure, meaning the roads, inaccessible getting into the airport. all of those are what we experienced during katrina. >> and the lessons you learned from katrina, how would you apply those to japan?
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what would be your first plan of action there? >> is to build the coordination as they're doing now between the japanese defense force, japanese government, and pay com, the pacific command has done a lot of posturing, moving ships, ronald reagan to include elements of the third marine expeditionary force, the tartuga, essex. several ships are in strike zone. the u.s. has decided u.s. forces at the air base will be the onground coordinator working with the japanese. and hopefully within the next coming hours, we will get a request from the japanese for those search and rescue assets to go to work. >> now, search and rescue are looking for survivors of the
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tsunami of the quake. in the days and weeks ahead of that, the rebuilding, the cleaning up starts, and the sanitation. how do you deal with that? >> that's an enormous issue. initially in the coming days, as when you saw when the tsunami came ashore, it hit a lot of agricultural areas. areas that were used for farming crops, raising animals. i imagine much of that has been disrupted, as well as small plants that might have chemicals in them. this is an enormous issue that has to be sorted out on the ground by the search and rescue teams. and then the other big piece is people at a still there that are alive that have not been evacuated. you know, disaster response is much about logistics in getting food and water and medical supplies at the right place and the right time, and in the first four or five days, it's search and rescue to try to get people
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out alive. and i think that's where pacific command will be the biggest assistance to the japanese self-defense force is helping them run search and rescue using helicopter and many of the expeditionary capability that's in the navy and the marines to come ashore. >> do you think that the navy and the marines of the u.s. military forces can do what the japanese defense forces can't do? >> no, i think they can complement them with additional helicopters. let's put it inside to scope. inside new orleans st. bernard parish, private parish, it took us four days, but we masked 225 helicopters from all branchs of services. and at a point in time, that wasn't enough to cover the entire area because you've got to remember, it's not just a strike zone, you've got thousands of villages inside that thousand-mile zone there
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along the coast that are out of electricity, people in hospitals that need to be evacuated. so the needs are enormous for airlifts since most of the roads going into that area are closed. so that's the capability the u.s. can bring to augment the japanese. and if i said anything else, i don't mean any disrespect to the japanese self-defense force. >> understood. thanks so much for your time. we're going to be right back with the latest developments including reports of another earthquake. stay with us. ocid most calcium supplemts... t adththod it's dif - alcium crhea the one time of year red lobster creates
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basic. preferred. at meineke i have options on oil changes. and now i get free roadside assistance with preferred or supreme. my money. my choice. my meineke. we want to welcome our worldwide audience to our special coverage on the disaster in japan. i'm andrew stephens in hong kong. >> and i'm randi kaye in atlanta. it's 10:30 at night in japan. and minutes ago, another aftershock in japan. this one 5.8 magnitude. most rescue operations have
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stopped for the day, but the concern over more aftershocks like that one even more tsunamis also remains much concerned about those, as well. there have been more than 180 aftershocks since the 8.9 earthquake and massive tsunami struck japan's northeastern coast. at least 900 people are dead, at least 700 more missing. an undetermined number injured. early rescue efforts were difficult because all of the aftershocks. highways in that part of japan are damaged, utility services such as water and electricity are out for hundreds of thousands of people. the quake triggered a tsunami more than 23 feet high that washed over the japanese coastline, traveled six miles inland. this is the largest quake in recorded history to hit japan and the seventh largest worldwide since recordkeeping first began. and at this hour, one of the government's biggest concerns is damage to a nuclear power plant in northeast japan. the plant damaged earlier today by an explosion that collapsed
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the roof over one reactor. japan's prime minister says there has been no damage to the environment from this nuclear plant, and the public, he says, is not at risk. he says nearby citizens are being evacuated as a precaution. here's what he said a short time ago. >> have evacuated 20 kilometers away from the first nuclear reactor. and i would like to give careful attention so not one citizen is affected by the radiation. >> the u.s. says japan has not asked for any international help in dealing with the damaged nuclear plant. andrew? northeastern japan took the brunt of the quake and the tsunami. and among the hardest hit areas was around sendai, that's the
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city of 1 million people. cnn arrived in the last hour near the heart of this natural disaster. and ana, it's 10:30 in the evening, bitterly cold. there are still aftershocks and much of the city seems to be submerged or at least in standing water. how are the people of sendai dealing with this evening? >> well, andrew, i just want to mention that aftershock that randi spoke about a time ago. it certainly did shake. i was inside the van, and the van shook. so these aftershocks are certainly continuing. that is why the tsunami warning is still in place here in japan. they are still on high alert in case there is another major shake that forces a tsunami to come onshore.
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as we saw, that monster wave hit the northeast of the country. it happened some 15 to 20 minutes after the quake struck. and that is what is just frightening. you say to people it's not@earthquake that has caused all this damage, it is, in fact, the tsunami. the monster wave, the 10-meter wave that engulfed everything in its wake. we've seen those frightening pictures. and we spoke to a reporter, andrew, a local reporter who managed to get up to some of the hard-hit areas, which north of where i am here in sendai. and he said that in one particular part there was some 200 to 300 bodies, and he said house after house after house had been destroyed. as you say, the death toll is expected to surpass 1,000, and there are 700 people missing. but as we -- as the days go by,
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andrew, that is expected to rise. anybody who is trapped in that rubble, it is going to be a massive feat to get through the night. >> and as you say, anna, with that aftershock, there is a very real danger of yet another tsunami in that area. this is a city of a million people. are people fleeing sendai now? are they -- if they can, are they getting out? >> reporter: we drove here late tonight, we couldn't fly in. obviously the airport of sendai, it had been engulfed by that tsunami. it's very eerie, it's extremely quiet. i mean, coming in it was pitch black. there is no power on in much of the city. where we are in the city's center, there is electricity and power, but that is only in pockets. so much of the city there is no power, there is no water.
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so people, i would presume, are getting out. it's certainly very quiet. and i can tell you that certainly coming into -- into the city, there was a long convoy of cars that were trying to get out. so not a lot of people obviously want to hang around, andrew. >> in sendai, the very heart where the disaster hit hardest on land. thanks very much for that. randi? as those rescue efforts continue, japanese officials are struggling to contain the situation at the nuclear plant. i want to speak to professor dallas. you've worked with japanese disaster management in the past. i want to ask you about this. they're saying now over the latest news is this explosion we saw at one of these plants was due to hydrogen build-up. it was a hydrogen explosion,
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there isn't radio activity in the air. is that a good thing? >> that's a good thing relative to the other possibilities that it could have involved their reactor core, which apparently it has not, not at this time. however, any explosion of that nuclear reactor is very distr s distressing. they had 13 diesel generator backups that should have been available and they all went down. that's a disturbing development. this is kind of the critical time right now. these reactor cores, you can't cool them down very quickly. it's like analogies i've heard on the air on cnn where it's like a stove. you heat it up and it doesn't go down very quickly. >> sure. >> you can still burn your hand later. >> and that's been the problem. the cooling system. >> that's the problem. the heat's got to go somewhere. so what they do is dissipate the heat this direction or that direction. well, without diesel generators working, the heat has nowhere to go. >> you told me you didn't get much sleep last night because
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you've been speaking with the people you know in japan. you've been in touch with them quite a bit about this. did you learn anything that you can share with us that might be new? >> yes, i worked closely with japanese emergency management. and including one that's in the control room there, the number one reactor. and they were concerned about a uncovering a part of the core at one point. and that's a disturbing development. this is kind of the critical period. they should be able to control this if they can keep that core covered. it has to have water around it to take the heat away. when the core got uncovered, that's when they had a meltdown. and this one we're getting conflicting reports. some say they think part of their core is melting a little, others say no. >> and the prime minister coming out just today saying not to be concerned, nobody's been affected. >> yeah. >> you're shaking your head? >> i'm not certain about that. but i -- we don't right now, a
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limited at of radioactivity has come out. some of the reports i've seen have indicated something like 620 millirims in an hour. that's about the radiation you get in a year. >> and that's in one hour? >> that's the report we have right now. >> we saw some video and have video of the explosion as it happened. and you can see these big white plumes of smoke. is that aleft arming to you? and where is that going and how quickly can something like that travel? >> my japanese friends in the middle of the night called me and told me things were deteriorating some. when you see that cloud coming out of there, you have the idea -- that's coming out of the nuclear reactor. apparently it was not a
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radioactive cloud. apparently it was a hydrogen blast, which is not a good thing for those four people injured. but right now, we really have to keep an eye on this because that reactor core has to remain covered. >> right. >> they've got to keep that thing covered. and without diesel generator power, that means they're resorting to batteries to do that. >> you know where we are. so if your friends call from japan with more information, we'd love to tell our viewers the latest that's going on. >> okay. okay. >> andrew? randi, we're getting news coming into us from the kyoto news organization in japan, one of the bigger news agencies there. saying about 950,000 people are still unaccounted for after the tsunami. the death toll stands at 900. this increases dramatically, though, the number of people unaccounted for.
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9,500 people. okay. you're watching cnn. we're going to take a short break in -- right now. we'll be back in a moment. ♪ [ male announcer ] america's beverage companies are working together to put more information right up front. adding new calorie labels to every single can, bottle
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i just want to update you now on the news we're getting in from kyoto news agency in japan sawing that 9,500 people are missing from one town in northern japan. it's in the miyagi prefecture.
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9,500 people still unaccounted for in that town. this is about 32 hours now after the tsunami and the earthquake first struck. so we'll continue to bring you more details on that. that's coming us from the kyoto news agency. randi? andrew, social media is proving to be a lifeline for people around the world who might be worried about their loved ones. josh levs is here this morning. >> yeah, good morning to you, randi. we can pick up on some of this breaking news we're hearing, as well. part of the problem is there are people unaccounted for because they can't get in touch. they don't have access to their cell phones, land lines, in some cases communications have been cut off. and some people are finding that twaul actually social media is their only way of reaching each other and the outside world. at cnn, earlier we spoke with a young woman in tokyo. here's what she said. >> because we don't have the
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phone line really working. so everyone is contacting through twitter. and they're knowing that each other is alive and we see a lot of comments from overseas. and we're very cheerful from that. we see a lot of pictures that are like -- we think about japan and all those comments, and we are really cheerful for that. and that's because -- that's the reason why we can kind of hold it together right now. >> so to everyone watching this all over the world right now, understand there are people like her inside tokyo who are saying the messages you are sending on social media are meaning a lot to them. and many of them are able to see it. now, a lot of people are very worried about loved ones you've not been able to reach, unaccounted for right now. and we've got some interesting advice earlier. a man named nate burkis in the united states, he was in the 2004 tsunami and tragically lost his partner there. he had some advice. take a look at what he said. >> keep the hope that you will
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find your loved ones that are missing. stay on the social media, facebook, twitter, all of these things. keep posting the pictures of those who are missing. don't give up on that hope because people are disoriented, they've been knocked unconscious. they may not know where they are or what's wrong with them. so there's always a chance that your loved one has survived. >> and here is a way that you can use the internet to try to track down your loved ones called the google person finder. if you're looking for someone or if you're in a stricken area and you have information on someone, all you need to do is click right here, type in the name, and ultimately you can get information, a whole list, you might be able to find information on someone you are looking for. tens of thousands of names have been submitted. in some cases information about them has been posted, as well. i posted this and other helpful links at facebook and twitter. we're doing all we can here at cnn to get you in all of the necessary places to get information about the stricken region as social media, randi,
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continues to play a major role in the aftermath of the quake and tsunami. >> thanks for that. andrew? well, randi, as we probably know that japan is one of the most wide nations in the world and much of the fury of the quake is evident. [ male announcer ] springtime belongs to the doers. those of us who know grass doesn't turn green just because the calendar says to.
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okay. just breaking news coming to us now. there's been two more strong aftershocks in japan in the last 30 minutes. the first was a magnitude 5.8, the second a magnitude 6.4. that came in just 50 miles or so from fukushima. that's where the nuclear plant is located. the usgs has recorded some 83 significant aftershocks just in the past 21 hours. so the aftershocks continue. and randi, i guess these aftershocks can continue for weeks and sometimes months. so the affected areas in japan certainly have that to deal with, as well. >> yeah, as if they haven't been through enough already. now they're waiting and watching, for not only aftershocks but tsunamis they say that could follow, as well. >> yeah. >> meteorologists reynolds wolf has our earth science lesson. how has that earthquake off the
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coast of japan spawned a tsunami with that incredible power. japan's coast, actually, reynolds, moved some 8 feet and the earth itself on an altered axis? >> hard to believe. devastating effect. no question about it. thankfully to help me explain this, we've got cnn international with us. you know this guy very, very well, he's a wonderful expert. and this is really a hot bed of seismic activity, isn't it? you've seen all the tremors, aftershocks, and the big one being the 8.9 earthquake. exactly what is the anatomy of a system like this? anatomy of a tsunami? >> yeah, we're sitting in an area that gets on average some 1,500 quakes per year and the word tsunami, japanese term tsu for the word port, and wave. we have japan right along the coast there, this being the pacific plate lined in the bottom of your screen. the plates grinding against each
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other and move about 4 inches per year. the same rates that your fingernails grow. grinding against each other at that rate about 4 inches a year, very slowly builds up pressure. the fault line we talk about often. basically the plate builds up the pressure and eventually you get the waves that develop associated with this and that goes to continue over the next day, couple of hours. and this case we have a pacific wide implication across this region. and then see if you're sitting on a boat out there, these move at about 800 kilometers, about 500 miles per hour. once they get to the beach, they have what's called the run-up, and this runs up against the topography, against the symmetry we talk about here. just how your bath reacts where you move around in the bath and splash the water and the waves
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begin propagating outward. as we get the increase and the steepness, the waves could become significant and that's when you have the widespread problems associated with tsunamis that had global implicatio implications. >> fascinating, i love that note about as much as your fingernails grow. that was an interesting perspective. >> amazing. >> yeah. >> thank you so much. at this point we bid farewell to cnn's andrew stephens in hong kong. pleasure working with you today. >> you too, randi, and no doubt we'll see you again very soon. >> absolutely. our coverage of the disaster in japan continues for viewers in the united states and around the world.
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the day after the most powerful earthquake ever to rock japan, we are just getting word that 9,500 people are missing in one northern town and a 6.4 aftershock just hit. japan's prime minister putting the call out for help and the united states responding. we'll tell you how.
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>> the precaution after an explosion and leak at one of japan's damaged nuclear power plants. we've got new details on that, as well. from cnn center in atlanta, it's march 12th, i'm randi kaye. >> and i'm becky anderson in london. we'd like to welcome viewers in the united states and around the world to our coverage of the disaster in japan. >> it is 11:00 at night in japan, but the aftershocks just keep coming. just within the hour, another hit japan. this one 6.4. most rescue operations have stopped for the day, but the concern over those aftershocks even more tsunamis remain. there have been more than 180 aftershocks since the 8.9 earthquake and massive tsunami struck japan's northeastern coast. at least 900 people dead. in one city alone, 9,500 people missing, an undetermined number
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are injured. early rescue efforts were difficult because of all of the aftershocks as you can imagine. highways in that part of japan are damaged and utility services, water, electricity, they're out for hundreds of thousands. the quake triggered a tsunami more than 23 feet high that washed over the japanese coastline, traveling about 6 miles inland. this is the largest quake in recorded history to hit japan and the seventh largest worldwide since recordkeeping first began. and at this hour, one of the government's biggest concerns is damage to a nuclear power plant in northeast japan. the plant damaged earlier today by an explosion that collapsed the roof over one reactor. well, another city in japan we are keeping a close eye on is sendai. it's so close to the epicenter of the earthquake and the heart of the disaster. and that is where cnn's international correspondent anna carren is live for us.
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how bad is it? >> reporter: becky, i just want to touch on that distressing news that randi mentioned. the township that is several hours north of where we are in sendai. and the news agency, which is the official japanese news agency is reporting that 9,500 people are missing, unaccounted for. in is a town of some 17,000 people, they're talking about half the township missing. this is part of a death toll that is expected to surpass 1,000. that is what we knew before we received th ed about the 9,500 missing. a couple hundred bodies have been found. this monster tsunami, this 10-meter wave that hit the coastline has just devastated so much. and sendai, yes, it was hard hit
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in those northern areas, which has just been absolutely engulfed. becky. >> it's very evident. and there are very few people around. this is more than 24 hours after the quake struck. what are rescue workers doing at this point? >> reporter: from what i understand, becky, rescue operations have suspended for tonight. they start as the sun went down, they will resume first light tomorrow morning. we know that they're trying absolutely everything. helicopters going into these areas rescuing people who were stranded in their homes, they were plucked from their rooftops as well as survivors. we also know that the search and rescue teams are going through the rubble. they are going through the remains of the weight of this tsunami. it is not the earthquake that has affected this part of the country, but it is the tsunamis. once a wave hits the -- so much
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of this coastline, you know, some 15 to 20 minutes after that quake hits. >> i was wondering, then, just how big of a fear there is this tsunami may have washed away so many more. what sense do you get that the numbers are sort of up to date at this point? >> reporter: well, i think that news that we had of the north of us, i think that's where it stands. it's hard to fathom, that amount of water hitting so much, and people being able to survive. particularly knowing that the quake struck and literally 15 to 20 minutes, that wave came and so much of this area is low lying, but the people could not escape. they got in their cars and got driven away. you're talking about a wave that
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came from 5, 6, 7 kilometers away. you saw the reports, the strength. it picked up everything in its path. cars, houses, trucks, ships, and threw them around like toys. so how people would withstand that, it's virtually impossible, becky. >> yeah, absolutely devastating. anna coren for us. japan has accepted offers of search and rescue teams from australia, new zealand, south korea, and the united states. and the u.s. has also sent navy ships to help japan with relief. it's also helping with what president obama calls lift capacity. that means heavy lifting equipment. the u.s. also sent supplies to help cool nuclear reactors there. poland is offering to send firefighters. president medvedev says russia has offered rescuers and sniffer dogs and all possible aid. and thailand offering about
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$165,000 in aid and says it will consider offering more when the extent of the damage is known. and the international red cross and red crescent say they've mobilized 11 teams to heavily damaged areas. they have 20,000 tents, and other relief supplies ready to pass on to local red cross teams. and let's get more on the situation with that nuclear power plant now. cnn's stan grant in tokyo. you've been talking with the nuclear energy agency there. just how serious is this as we get word now that this explosion may have been more related to hydrogen? >> reporter: yeah, didn't involve the reactor itself, randi. and that is the good news. the explosion happened in the outer wall. this is a wall that surrounds the casing of the reactor. so it wasn't the casing of the reactor, it wasn't the reactor, it was the outer wall and destroyed part of that wall. and also the roots. they're saying no harmful material was released into the
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air. saying radiation levels have been steadily decreasing throughout the day. there has been some radioactive material seeking into the atmosphere. at one point that was about eight times normal levels, but they have said it is not yet at a harmful level for the public. and, in fact, has been decreasing. it hasn't stopped the government increasing that exclusion zone, though, that is now out to 20 kilometers, about 12 or 13 miles they've evacuated people, thousands of people from around that area and elderly people have been helicoptered out of there, as well. an investigation, of course, continuing into that situation. while they also continue to cool the reactor, which is at the cause of this. that is where the fear comes that if it continues, can't get enough water in there and cool it, then we could see more pressure exerted and then the risks increase of perhaps even something more dangerous and more radioactivity spilling out into the atmosphere.
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and they've been working on that now for more than 24 hours and still unable to cool that reactor, randi. >> and those 24 hours from what i understand, that is the critical deadline as far as i understand it in terms of trying to contain this. >> reporter: well, certainly every hour is crucial. you know, this is a nuclear emergency, certainly into uncharted territory. when you have a situation like this where the quake knocked out power and affected their ability to cool the reactor. it just raises continuously. the government has been aware of that, but also playing down the risk saying it is not as yet posing a risk to safety. and the prime minister naoto kan spoke directly to this saying no one has been affected at this stage. that we've heard many analysts and many here on cnn saying this is, indeed, a race against time. and the inability to bring it under control continues to raise the stakes in this and raise that threat level, that danger
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level that there could be a much more significant problem at its core if they can't cool the reactor, randi. >> i'm sure they're working hard or the cool that. stan grant, thank you. to find out how you can make a difference in japan, this is our impact your world page. you've seen all the images. i'm sure you're thinking about trying to help at there are organizations there you can join with to try to help the victims in japan. becky? >> absolutely all right. randi, they survived what seemed like endless shaking and swaying. hear from the i-reporters who lived to tell the tale about japan's 8.9 magnitude earthquake. and reynolds wolf will give us a look at the science behind the tsunami triggered by the wake. [ male announcer ] nature is unique... pure...
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nothing is moving. it's about 12:00 a.m. you never think you'll ever experience it. it's really cold.
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>> before the tsunami struck, japan was shaken by a massive 8.9 magnitude earthquake. >> cnn i-reporters on the scene right after the first tremors hit. here is what they saw. >> the ground was rolling for an extended period of time. i wasn't exactly sure what to do or where to go. i'd never been prepared for anything like this. we hung on to the outside of our house. you couldn't even stand up. at the peak of these waves washing over the ground, you literally could not stay on your feet. you had to kind of crouch down in a ball or put your back against something so you didn't fall.
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>> the whole ground was shaking so much. it was unreal. i can't describe it. it's just -- it was it felt like someone was just pulling you back and forth like side to side as hard as they could. >> it just blew up. woo! woo! this is crazy. woo! look at it. i'm back. do y'all see this?
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>> oh, my god. that is the biggest earthquake. it is still going. oh, my god, the building's going to fall! >> but it got considerably worse. so i said this is the biggest one yet, and it didn't stop. and it got a little bit worse so i went to stand outside between the two buildings. and the clanking you hear are the canisters of natural gas banging against each other. and that's when i said, oh, my god, the building's going to fall. i said this before because it had never made that sound.
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it sounded like a shotgun or freight train going off. just, boom! >> amazing. very strong aftershocks felt in close proximity to a power plant. and we also want to remind you of the latest numbers of those unaccounted for in just a single town in the miyagi prefecture, 9,500 people unaccounted for. those people are missing. what's so remarkable about this is that is more than half the population of that entire town. the population is 17,000, and more than 9,500 are unaccounted for. reynolds wolf, this is really incredible. you know, as we see these pictures, hear these reports of those missing and those i-reports are really something
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to listen to. >> oh, just devastating. terrifying to see. and the numbers you mentioned are truly mind boggling. trouble is, we might see those numbers increase over the coming days. something else is very possible we may be dealing with more aftershocks. if you happen to take a look at this map, you see, of course, japan, japan actually is a little bit smaller than the state of california. as we zoom in a couple kilo occasions, i'm going to step out of the way. you see the original earthquake, the big one, and farther to the south, one of the latest was this 6.4 aftershock. now, moments ago, i got this information from cnn international just over the last 21 hours, there have been 84 of these that have occurred, five of them have been at least a six or greater. and you see the close proximity is the fukushima one nuclear power plant. and the big one very close
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proximity. the thing that's really frustrating and caused great concern about this is whenever you have the earthquakes and the tremo tremors, this weakens buildings. and some of them are just barely standing at this point. when you have an additional aftershock, it puts them into a further weakened state. and knowing there's concern about the structural fortitude of the nuclear power plant, any time you have an aftershock or shaking, there's a potential of further damage. and of course, we're going to watch very carefully. but you have to keep in mind, though, this kind of activity, seismic activity. and to have earthquakes along these islands is common place all around the pacific. happens in north america, parts of south america, wherever it's in contact with the pacific ocean, the largest geographical figure. we're going to watch for you very carefully. this story is certainly far from
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over. we'll have more updates shortly. >> thank you, reynolds. >> you bet. and becky? >> all they can do is watch and wait. family members outside japan are struggling to find out more information about loved ones back home. and we'll talk to a scientist who has studied the fault lines beneath the 8.9 magnitude quake. that's coming up. don't go away.
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welcome back to our viewers in the united states and around the world, now the fear in japan right now that tremors could cause more destruction or worse. there could be another big quake. purdue university geophysicist andy freed helped predict the quake in haiti. he's joining us from lafayette, indiana. was there any way to know this enormous quake was imminent? >> well, japan is one of the most seismic, active zones in the world. there's no way to know that a big earthquake or any size is imminent. there was no warning before. >> you're in japan last year studying this specific fault that one of our colleagues was alluding to earlier on, tell us about that.
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>> well, it's a subduction zone. so it's a place where two tectonic plates are coming together. you actually have like the pacific plate is actually subducting or going beneath the plate that japan is sitting on. these are areas in the earth where you build up a lot of stress because these plates are moving fast and eventually the fault can't take the stress and it breaks. they don't always break. obviously with this size. it's not unprecedented. it would be about the fifth biggest earthquake that we've recorded. but japan knew that -- and has prepared for very large events to come. >> all right. talk to me about aftershocks. what is actually happening when they occur? and how do they differ from the actual earthquake itself? >> if you build up a lot of stress on a fault and you break it, you don't break every single part of the fault.
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and stresses and pressures move around. so after the earthquake, parts that didn't break eventually they break. and that leads to aftershocks. the big danger is with the magnitude 8.9 earthquake, you can actually expect a magnitude 7.9 aftershock to occur. we've already seen at least a dozen aftershocks at greater than six. one was probably close to magnitude seven, which was the same size that hit haiti. it's not unexpected that an even larger aftershock will occur in the weeks to come. >> that's remarkable. and that was my next question, when would you consider yourself in the clear as it were after such an episode like this? we've seen activity both tsunami warnings and aftershocks. as you say, for more than the last 24 hours. >> yeah, i would say it's going to be quite a few months before you can consider yourself in the clear. even new zealand you saw the aftershock occur quite a bit of time after the larger previous events and caused a lot more
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damage. i would say there's another danger here too is that any time you have a very large earthquake, relieving a lot of stress on one part of the fault, it actually loads the neighboring sections of the fault to the north and to the south in this case. we saw that in indonesia in 2004. you had a very large 9.1 earthquake, that was followed a year later by an 8.5 earthquake to the south and several other 8.0 earthquakes in the years after to the south. so for years to come, this area is going to be highly, you know, hazardous, especially to the south in the tokyo area along that fault. >> question marks remain. andy freed, we thank you very much, indeed for joining us here on cnn. randi? watching horror in her native land. one woman said it looked like her world was coming to an end. just ahead, japanese-americans in los angeles react to the tsunami devastation. [ male announcer ] this is lara.
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